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Album Review: MOTORHEAD Ace of Spades 40th Anniversary Edition

9.5 Reviewer

In 1980, Motorhead released their fifth album Ace of Spades. It was their breakthrough, landing in the UK top five, with the title track their most successful single. It was also their first album to receive a U.S. release. Unfortunately, vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor have all passed away, but this album will live on forever.

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The 40th-anniversary edition of Ace of Spades is released in several configurations. There’s a 2CD edition, 3LP edition, digital edition, and a couple of box sets. The deluxe box set (retail price $175) has five albums, a DVD, a 40-page book, tour program, comic, set of five poker dice, 7 inch single of “Ace of Spades,” all encased in a classic Wild West dynamite box. The super deluxe box set also throws in a deck of MOTORHEAD playing cards, a poker mat, and two MOTORHEAD shot glasses.

Photo: Alan Ballard

Ace of Spades is an undeniable classic as the band roars through the 12 tracks in just under 37 minutes. It includes some of their most beloved songs such as the title track, “The Chase Is Better Than The Catch” and “(We Are) The Road Crew.” There’s not a dud in the bunch, with several other outstanding tracks ranging from “Love Me Like A Reptile” to “Fast And Loose” to “Jailbait.”

Not only was Ace of Spades a classic in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal genre, but it was also highly influential elsewhere. Many young bands that helped create thrash metal were obviously influenced by MOTORHEAD in general and this album specifically.

The second disc of the 2CD edition is a live show from December 1981 in Belfast. The streaming and box set configurations also have a live show from March of 1981 in Orleans. In addition, there’s The Good, The Broke & The Ugly, a collection of b-sides, outtakes, and rare tracks along with a previously unreleased EP of instrumental tracks from 1980. The DVD Ace On Your Screens has TV appearances from 1980-81, a live concert from 1981, and a 5.1 audio mix of the album.

The live shows capture the band at a moment in time when they were at the peak of their powers. They had been together for several years at that point and had enough albums under their belt to create a potent setlist. Their playing had the perfect mix of rawness and skill. The sets of these two shows are similar, with different orders and a couple of different songs in each show. Both are good, but I liked the Orleans one slightly more than the Belfast show.

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The rarities album and instrumental EP are more for hardcore fans, but there are some interesting nuggets. There are alternative versions of several songs and even a version of “Bomber” performed by Girlschool.

Every metal fan should have Ace of Spades in their collection. Not everyone will have the cash or inclination to spring for a box set, but many MOTORHEAD fans will want one. The most bang for your buck is the digital edition, which includes 73 tracks for around $20. No matter the configuration, the music on Ace of Spades is timeless and still packs a wallop 40 years later.

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